Is hell so overcrowded that they are coming back? Even if they are, they can be outsmarted, but no character managed to. If I were in the book, I’d hire someone to knock me out, and take me to the nearest plane. I’d be in Tahiti by the time I wake up.
It’s Halloween on my mind; when I saw Apartment 16 advertised in Fully Booked’s newsletter I could not help but rush to the bookstore to buy it, and read it–never mind my TBR challenge where I listed books gathering dust on my shelf and never mind my tight budget, almost exhausted by my recent trip to Hong Kong and Macau. A success story of book pushing, to my wallet’s detriment but my Halloween’s wicked glee.
I was drawn to the cover–an imposing apartment building, the kind that only the rich can afford; brooding; dark sky; with a sort of dust coming out of one of the windows. It could be smoke, the way its movement is depicted, yet I can see individual particles, moving synchronized with all the rest.
The book immediately reminded me of the Stephen King movie, Room 1408, where a grand but aging New York hotel harbors a haunted room. Guests check in, and come out dead or insane. No one knows what happens inside that room. Watching it made me feel claustrophobic, as whatever was inside that room can stretch minutes into days and memories into nightmares.
I don’t think Apartment 16 was scarier, or maybe it just suffered for not having John Cusack and Samuel Jackson in the cast, but it did go a step further than claustrophobia and added agoraphobia to the murkiness coming from one abandoned apartment.
In Barrington House, an upmarket block in London, there is an empty apartment. No one goes in, no one comes out. And it’s been that was for fifty years. Until the night watchman hears a disturbance after midnight.
A young American woman, April, arrived at Barrington House to claim her inheritance. She was left an apartment by her estranged aunt Lillian who died in strange circumstances. She was mad, said many. Yet her diary suggested a horrific event decades ago, which took the life of her beloved husband.
As April investigated, she found out about the death-obsessed artist who used to live in Apartment 16. Practicing the occult, he may have opened a gateway into hell that has since permeated the block’s stone and woodwork. This evil infected everyone with spiritual malaise, making the world seem ugly. Or maybe it just made them see things as they really were? People also became more open to the psychic world; they saw distorted creatures everywhere even in broad daylight. When they tried to go out of London, the creatures that once were human would overwhelm them.
I was surprised by the appearance of three little hairless girls with the strangest misshapen heads, all long and thinnish. They were wearing surgical gowns tied at the neck and they did a horrible little dance on their stick legs, right there on the pavement before my eyes. Under the gowns I think their bodies were stitched together. But it was the way they moved…
Seth, the night watchman, was easily influenced. A struggling artist, he was trying to make ends meet while seeking his muse. His muse found him, unfortunately, and gave him nightmares. Pages were devoted to describing the horrors the death-obsessed artist created, by himself at first and then through Seth. He liked his subjects torn, mutilated, trapped, hanging, decaying, despairing, about to be swallowed up by a vast and seething nothingness. Stagnancy and a descent into a primitive animal state were also favorite themes.
Definitely, the power of the atmosphere put most characters in the shade. Seth was ok, but April was just a device to give the readers important background information. Excited though I was to acquire this book, it took me a while to get into the story. I was slightly bored with Seth’s introspection, not knowing yet of course how it related to what followed. When April learned more about her aunt from the head porter, the pace picked up. I said “most” not “all” because The Friends of Hessen were interesting. Sad rather than scary, and freaky rather than macabre, they have embraced ugliness while pretending they were special. I wished they can be given an opportunity to stay in Apartment 16.
According to the brief author bio, Nevill used to be a night watchman in exclusive apartment buildings in West London. I wonder what he has seen and heard inside those snooty walls inspiring this horror story? I myself daydream about living in an old yet prestigious apartment building. Maybe I should stop not because of ghosts but because only the rich, old and paranoid for neighbors until the end of my days is a truly horrifying thought. I’d die of boredom first before the ghosts can come and get me.
Only a Saturday with the Flips Flipping Pages can be this illuminating. A week ago, eight Flippers paid the Lumina Pandit Exhibit at the University of Santo Tomas a visit. Organized by Professor GnP, it was a very memorable activity.
Here is my recap:
The exhibition commemorates the survival of a 400-year-old institution, the UST Library. Showcased are the original academic records of Jose Rizal, documents with baybayin script, 100-year-old newspapers, and rare tomes. My favorite is a book of maps. Maps tell much about how people saw the world; back then, the Philippines was a land of legends.
The oldest book is an incunabula by a Jewish historian and translated into Spanish. Josefo Flavio’s La Guerra Judaica was printed in 1492 and recounted the Jewish wars with the Romans. Other books in the collection include a 16th-century, first edition tome penned by Nicholas Copernicus and 400-year-old Plantin Polyglot Bible.
The Bible is quite famous and possibly the most valuable of UST’s treasures. It is in Hebrew, Syrian, Aramaic, Greek and Latin. I can easily imagine a Dan Brown story taking form in the University Halls. The books when not on exhibit are kept at the archives, where only librarians and scholars may enter.
Easily the highlight of our tour was a demonstration of a xylographic printing. I applied ink on a carved wooden board called a woodcut template. By means of a replica of a primitive printing press I then transferred the design onto paper (actually the guides did; I just loved the sound of my first thought better.) My souvenir imprint was coveted by the others. I’ll give it to Kwesi because he’s the youngest and sweetest Flipper.
Lumina Pandit is Latin for “to spread the light.” The university seeks to illustrate through the exhibit how across four centuries it has spread the light of civilization to the Orient. Divided into six sections signifying eras of enlightenment in the Orient, the exhibit hall is surprisingly compact but holds a wealth of relics. I suggest that other Flippers take a guided tour (No entrance fee. Donations are welcome) and return to the beginning of the exhibit for a lingering appreciation of our cultural treasures.
More guards should have tailed us. Didn’t they know we were a book club? And they let us loose among rare books!
Exhibit is open until January 30, 2011 at the ground floor of the Miguel de Benavides Library. Hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 8am-5pm. Call (632) 731 3034 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Not satisfied with the oldest library, we segued into the oldest museum before lunch at a Thai restaurant near UST. At the Museum of Science and the Arts we got an eyeful of stuffed animals, animal fossils, religious artifacts, coins, medals, and school memorabilia. Mike proudly pointed out at a goblet used by senior wizards to vote for wizardry apprentices into becoming full-fledged wizards… Wait, I segued into something else entirely.
Next: Recap of the Discussion of the End of the Affair by Graham Greene
Grave witch Alex Craft can speak to the dead, but that doesn’t mean she likes what they say.
Like in several other urban fantasy fictions I have read, Grave Witch uses the literary device of a society transformed by the coming-out of paranormals or, in this case, the fae. Magic was awakened in the world, allowing some humans to better understand and practice it. There are the usual spell casters who can create charms ranging from homing origami messages to complexion charms. One of the rarest forms of ability was communicating with the dead, called grave witchcraft.
Alex, a talented grave witch, is hoping to get a break by helping the police solve cases and DA get convictions through the shades she calls up. A favor for a sister gets her into more than she can chew. She gets attacked by a shade and then shot at. Death saves her, pushing Alex out of the way. That she has been seeing and talking with a soul collector since childhood is another of Alex’s idiosyncrasies. A detective who is more than he seems starts tailing her, suspecting she knows more than she lets on. Which is true.
After Queen of Shadows, Grave Witch is a treat. I love the love triangle formed between Alex, Death, and detective. The relationship between Alex and Death reminds me of Tanya Huff’s The Last Wizard, where Crystal and Death form a rare friendship; they can never touch and he can never claim her, as wizards’ souls are off-limits to him. The detective may seem at a disadvantage, in terms of mystique. I thought so, but not for long (read to find out why). I don’t know who I’m rooting for actually.
There are shades of the Greywalker series here, too, in how both heroines can interact with different levels of reality, from the physical to the ghost world. Very Twilight Zone. That sort of stuff always appeals to me.
I can do with fewer interrupted dialogue, though; it’s a literary device that’s more irritating than intriguing. There must have been over a dozen examples where the character go, “I’ve got to, uh…” Argh.
Stormbreaker the Graphic Novel by Anthony Horowitz, Antony Johnston, Kanako Damerum & Yuzuru Takasaki
Apparently, Alex Rider is popular. I found out when I googled him. He’s what James Bond would be like as a teenager. His movie was a blockbuster and his books were bestsellers. Now he has a graphic novel based on the first book.
My glaring ignorance is not due to me having lived in an island all my life. I simply am not in the right demographics. I may have seen movie trailers but I don’t remember if I did. My movie and reading tastes do not run to spy thrillers starring 14-year olds. If the 14-year old has paranormal powers or has become involved in a supernatural situation then I would probably find out about him even if there is no blockbuster movie or bestselling books.
(Readers of the same opinion should try Dan Simmon’s Summer of Night. It gave me sleepless nights.)
I picked up this graphic novel at the Powerbooks’ Powerbarter last October 27, thinking it would make a kid happy if I donate it to a children’s library. I’m writing about it now because I read it, wanting a few idle minutes looking at pictures. I also thought I’d add by one my quantity challenge for the year.
I liked the artwork, which looked like it was a fusion of manga and Western art. Alex Rider has an innocent face normally and mischievous smile as he outwits or saves someone. He’s got all these martial skills from all the adventure trips with his uncle–who was a spy. When the uncle was killed by another spy, Alex was recruited–blackmailed, rather–to take his place.
Funny that there is no way I will take the idea of a kid acting for the government amongst cut-throat killers seriously when I have to remind myself, “fantasy, fantasy only,” when reading my SF or paranormal mysteries. I suppose it’s because I am an eldest in a brood of eight and there was no way in hell would I have allowed my siblings when they were that age to even go biking outside the neighborhood. No head of a spy agency can make my kid brother go head-to-head with bad guys and get away with it!
Already, I am rewriting Stormbreaker in my mind, with Jack, Alex’s nanny as the heroine protecting her ward from danger and Gregorovich, a Russian spy, as her bad but very hot adversary. I will also remake scenes of killing so that Alex will offer a more realistic reaction than just “Ew.”
The Filipino Book Bloggers met again last Saturday for books, nice company and conversation, and lovely coffee! Libreria at Cubao Expo was the best venue for book geeks. The place had charm and coffee galore! The book selection was fabulous, and Triccie the owner was the most gracious ever. Even if you’re not really into books, drop by and relax on the couch with a cup of coffee for a relaxing late afternoon or evening. Just destress, you know.
Libreria is located at Cubao Expo, a collection of shops on Gen. Romulo St, Araneta Center, Cubao, Quezon City. Look for it behind the Old Rustan’s building (beside Ali Mall), which is behind Shopwise in front of the entrance of the Araneta Coliseum. The entrance gate leading to Cubao Expo is closed to traffic starting 10pm. Refer to map for directions.
I quite enjoyed myself , and was very sorry I was late and missed much of the conversation. I’ll just share a short recap of the topics covered by the group. I have shamelessly referred to the recap of the other bloggers just so I can post something.
- How blogging affects real life, and vice versa
- Blogs we liked; blogging idol
- Addiction to monitoring blog statistics
- Negative reviews
- Personal review policies
- Dilemma of reviewing books written by people we know
Apparently, there was an outcry in Twiter by authors who get tagged in
negative reviews. ‘It is hurtful and there is no need to tag them’ was the sentiment. Most of the other bloggers agreed with this, saying the authors can always do a google search of negative reviews if they feel like it. The authors have a point, I know. But is it not a given that not all readers will like their books? When I write about a book, I basically just say whether I liked it or not. I don’t want to be accused of bad manners by an author for writing honestly in my blog.
Tina of One More Page recently had a brush with this issue, she told me later.
I like the solution of Tarie of Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind. She uses different ways to feature books: through reviews, memes, or author interviews. That way if she doesn’t like a book but does not want to post a negative review she can still choose to present the book in a positive light.
Another hot issue was plagiarism. Our own supreme court was guilty of this, whether intentionally or not is yet to be confirmed — click links here and here for the story. Kenneth said he felt strongly about plagiarism, and shared with the group another recent example where a cooking magazine editor used without permission an article written by a food writer. When asked for compensation by the writer, the editor allegedly said that the web is public domain and the writer should thank the magazine for editing her work!
Kenneth will host the next Filipino Friday discussion, which will be about plagiarism.
I’d like to commend Chachic for being such a fantastic moderator. She kept the conversation going and effortlessly stepped in with observations and questions when there was danger of dead air. To the other bloggers – Will, Aaron, Jason, Peter, and Rhett - great to see you! Honey, we should continue reading that Choose-your-own-romance-adventure. Blooey, terrific ghost story you shared–made me want to do another gothic tour.
Photos from Chachic’s Book Nook
Overall, a charming debut about a boy wizard. But I’m glad it’s out of the way so I can move on the progressively darker sequels. And see more of sulky Snape and gay Hagrid :P.
Do I have to summarize the story of Harry Potter? Doesn’t everyone know about his story by now? The Boy who Survived and You-Know-Who hunting him. I’ve seen the movies, liked them increasingly by each sequel, and stopped short of being a fan. The movies were brilliant and I liked seeing the characters and actors mature, and the plot thicken, moving from the babyish fantasy of Sorcerer’s Stone to the chilling rebirth of Voldemort. I found the absolute loyalty of the evil sorcerer’s minions sick and depraved, bordering on the sexual (has anyone else noticed this?). And that stopped me yawning because seeing that in a children’s series was funny. Published in 1997, I’m only now reading the Sorcerer’s Stone, and only because I felt I had to, acquiring the book in a book swap three years ago, having promised the previous owner I’ll get back to her about my impressions of the book, and caving in from the pressure of being maybe the only one in my circle or reader-friends not to have read the book. So I added it to my TBR challenge.
And regretted it for a week, which was how long before I managed to get past page 100, finding the account of Harry’s early years, about how incredibly boring Muggles were, incredibly boring. Come to think about it, I also never did manage to finish watching the first movie, no matter how many times I’ve caught it running on cable. This was good as it turned out as I was surprised by the revelation of whodunit later in the book.
I’ve read fantasy fiction by other British authors before, such as Margaret Storey (A War of Wizards), Edith Nesbit (Psammead Series), and Tanith Lee (Unicorn series) . Their stories were extraordinary and I loved them. Until now I have a crush on Hilarion, the wizard who can’t stand to be seen. My favorite of their ilk will be forevermore Dianna Wynne Jones, who penned Howl’s Moving Castle and creator of unforgettable characters like Sophie Farthing, Wizard Howl, and the fire demon Calcifer. Having partaken of their literary feasts since high school I was not that excited over the news of a new Fantasy author and her debut work about a boy wizard.
My reading taste lately has also shifted from pure fantasy to urban fantasy, and not just because of the kick-ass heroines, but also because I prefer if the story treats magic as part of the world, not separate but one and the same, with people just experiencing different things. One reason I got bored with the first part of Sorcerer’s Stone was the strong sense of insularity it conveyed of the magic world from Muggle world.
Nevertheless, I did get past the first 100 pages and was engaged finally as Harry learned about potions, spells, and the soccer-like game Quidditch. The mystery of the Sorcerer’s Stone was interesting. I liked how the author dropped hints here and there as well, not just about the current mystery but also about the overarching mystery of Voldemort and Harry’s role in his downfall. I can imagine how like a game it is for readers spotting references and clues, connecting the dots from book 1 to book 3 or somewhere else. That was very clever of the author.
Her imaginative details were also impressive. She invented Platform 9 ¾, Every Flavor Beans, messenger owls, and the magic puzzle game in the Sorcerer’s Stone Chamber, hearth-hatching of a dragon egg and Quidditch. I liked how she used elements of the British school system to define Hogwarts School. The rivalry and other relationship dynamics between students and eccentric faculty were well thought out. Even if I had not seen the movies, I can easily visualize Harry, Ron, Hermione, and all the others. The writing was fluid, easily keeping pace with human and magical nuances. Spooky also had a special place; if I were 11 years old I imagined I would be terrified out of my wits upon realizing what lay under the turban.
Overall, a charming debut about a boy wizard. But I’m glad it’s out of the way so I can move on the progressively darker sequels. And see more of sulky Snape and gay Hagrid :P.